NHS warn stomach pain could be little-known yet common condition

Belly pain, a woman lies down in pain
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

The NHS has warned people about a common condition which can cause a range of symptoms, yet it's likely something know little about. Taking to their website, the heath service said that if you experience tummy (abdominal) pain alongside other symptoms, you should ask your GP about fibroids.

These are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb (uterus). Made from muscle and fibrous tissue, these growths vary in size and are sometimes known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas.

The NHS site says: "Many women are unaware they have fibroids because they do not have any symptoms." Despite some not showing any signs, there are others who show symptoms. Women who do have symptoms may experience:

  • heavy periods or painful periods

  • tummy (abdominal) pain

  • lower back pain

  • a frequent need to urinate

  • constipation

  • pain or discomfort during sex

What causes fibroids and what types are there?

The health experts state that they are unsure of the exact cause. Yet there have been links to the hormone oestrogen - the female reproductive hormone produced by the ovaries (the female reproductive organs).

The main types of fibroids are:

  • intramural fibroids – the most common type of fibroid, which develop in the muscle wall of the womb

  • subserosal fibroids – fibroids that develop outside the wall of the womb into the pelvis and can become very large

  • submucosal fibroids – fibroids that develop in the muscle layer beneath the womb's inner lining and grow into the cavity of the womb

In some cases, subserosal or submucosal fibroids are attached to the womb with a narrow stalk of tissue. These are known as pedunculated fibroids.

Do I need to see a GP?

As fibroids can cause no symptoms, they're often diagnosed by chance during a routine gynaecological examination, test or scan. You should however book an appointment with your GP if you have symptoms of fibroids so they can investigate possible causes, the NHS state.

If the GP thinks you may have fibroids, they'll usually refer you for an ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. Further complications caused by fibroids can affect pregnancy or cause infertility. So whilst most women do not experience any symptoms, they can cause significant problems in rare cases.

The likelihood of complications occurring depends on factors such as the position of the fibroids and their size. Fibroids can grow anywhere in the womb and vary in size considerably from the size of a pea to as big as a melon.

When a GP suspects fibroids, they typically perform a pelvic examination to check for noticeable signs. They might also refer you to a hospital for additional tests, as detailed below, to confirm the diagnosis or eliminate other potential causes of your symptoms.

Should your fibroids require treatment, your GP might prescribe medication to alleviate your symptoms. However, if these medications prove ineffective, you may need to consult a gynaecologist for more advanced treatment options or surgery.